A New Life

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In the 6 years that I have been writing this blog there have been numerous posts about mending and repairing clothes to extend their life.

Tonight I want to show you a couple of projects I completed on the weekend.

This was a long-sleeved shirt which was worn at the cuffs.  The traditional repair of this problem is ‘turn’ the cuffs, that is, to remove the cuff and replace it with the worn outside to the inside, thus doubling the life of the shirt.  Unfortunately, this had worn right on the edge and was visible from both the right and wrong sides.  So, I decided on a different course of action as it is a much-loved shirt.

Using an existing short-sleeved shirt as pattern, I re-fashioned it to a short-sleeved shirt.

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The excess that was cut off did not go completely to waste, either.  I removed the buttons and added them to my stash because, to quote my late father, “you never know when it might come in handy”.  I think that growing up in the Great Depression drove much of his thinking in that respect.  I do not hoard stuff but I do recognise that some things are likely to have a potential future use.  It is all a matter of balance.  I also managed to cut 6 x 5″ squares for future patchwork projects.

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My next project is a perfect example of when those salvaged bits do actually come in handy.  A elastic in a pair of GMan’s shorts had stretched to the point where even the associated drawstring was not sufficient to comfortably keep them up.

I unpicked the stitching and removed the elastic and salvaged the drawstring.  I just needed some suitable elastic and I would be able to reconstruct the shorts.  I found some that I had kept from some underpants that had worn out!  Of course, the fabric from the underpants had ended up in the rag bag.

Here are the shorts with the elastic removed and the drawstring and ‘new’ elastic ready to be re-assembled.

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So, thanks to my stash of salvaged elastic the shorts have been repaired and are as good as new at zero cost.

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Cause for Optimism

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It is easy to feel worn down and thwarted at every turn when you try to live according to your values with regards to reducing your carbon footprint.  However, this is not always the case.  At times there is cause for great joy and optimism and I have experienced that feeling this week.

I have been buying laundry liquid, pre-soak stain remover, dishwashing liquid and dishwasher powder from Felix at Kin Kin Naturals for a number of years now.  This family business is located at Kin Kin in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, about 80km north of where I live.  The products are available nationally particularly in Queensland and most especially on the Sunshine Coast.

Felix also sells the products at the Kin Kin markets which are held once a month in the small village.  We make the trip about every 6 months and stock up because it is cheaper to buy them direct from the producer.  Additionally, if I pre-order by email I can avoid new plastic packaging and buy the liquids packaged in re-used 2 or 3 litre juice bottles.  You can see some in the photo below from when I cleaned out the laundry cupboards.  You can read about it in this post.

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Last week I emailed an order to be collected at the next market at the beginning of April.  I decided to make it a bit more than just an order and sent the following email.

Hi Felix

I have previously purchased products from you at the Kin Kin markets on several occasions.  I have bought the dishwashing liquid and laundry liquid in the reused 2 and 3 litre juice which I really appreciate as it helps to limit the amount of plastic waste which our household generates.

I would like to buy:

8 litres of lavender and ylang ylang laundry liquid in the reused bottles
4 litres of tangerine and mandarin dishwashing liquid in the reused bottles
1 x 2.5kg refill pack of lemon myrtle and lime dishwasher powder
2 x 1.2kg eucalypt and lime eco laundry soaker

Does the laundry soaker come in refill packs?  If so, that would be my preference.

Is it possible or have you ever considered having bulk containers of all products at the market so that people can bring their own containers to be refilled?

There is a growing movement of people who are trying to reduce/eliminate single use plastic (including packaging).  Many of us are keen to buy/support locally produced/family businesses such as yours who produce a true eco-friendly product. Any opportunity to purchase these products without additional plastic would really be appreciated.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your help.

Kind regards

I really had no idea what sort of response I would get so I was absolutely delighted to receive the following email 2 days later.

Hi Yvonne,

Thanks for your order – and for thinking with us on how to reduce senseless packaging.

I will put 2.5 kg of laundry soaker in a refill pack rather than 2 of the plastic jars. Depending on the exact size of the re-used bottles on hand when we fill we’re looking at about 17 kg/L total x $5 = around $85 for your order please.

I can see the beauty of refilling on the spot at the markets but I prefer the current way of pre-ordered re-used containers because we are doing only the Kin Kin markets which are on only once a month and would be stuck with remainders of the refill drums of each of the 4 liquid variants for months which wouldn’t be ideal for product freshness.

On your broader question of packaging reduction, great point. Our current approach is to encourage stores to get our 20L drums and offer refills from those. The problem is that apart from a few stores in an area with refill-minded people (e.g., Cooran and Pomona) this refill route isn’t doing too well, I think mainly because stores don’t like the extra effort, mess – and of course selling a prefilled plastic bottle is easier, but that’s what Coles and Woolies can do too. If you have any ideas, don’t hesitate..

See you at the April markets.

I will respond to Felix and also look forward to discussing some possibilities when I see him next month.

In the meantime, this has renewed my confidence in the ability of individual consumers to influence positive change.  Not every approach will be received as positively as the example above but I will definitely be making more of an effort in the future to provide feedback to suppliers and retailers regarding plastic packaging.

Finite Resources

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There are many, many ways of looking at the environmental issues facing our planet today.  Different people choose to focus on different things but our goal is the same – to do the best that we can to preserve the health of the planet for future generations.  Right?

Some people try to source as much as possible second-hand, others eschew plastic at every turn, barely a handful of waste is the goal sought by another group and then there are those who are always looking for a way to recycle or re-use items that are no longer required.

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Plastic seems to have been recently declared ‘public enemy no. 1’ due to the masses of micro (and not so micro) plastics in our oceans and the detrimental effect it is having on marine life.  I agree with this sentiment and do the best I can to minimise my use of single use plastic products.  However, I have not rushed to get rid of all my plastic containers and other items as I believe it is my responsibility to use my existing products wisely and extend their life as much as possible.

Some people disagree because of the perceived potential risks of using plastic – particularly where food and drink are concerned.  I do not have a problem with this as I do not use plastic for storing liquids, oils, acidic foods nor do I use plastic where there is heat involved – such as the microwave.

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There will always be some plastic products but it is our responsibility to restrict the use of plastics to those applications where it is necessary.  Not only for the marine life but due to the fact that plastic is made from oil which is a finite resource – there is not an endless supply.  Most people can clearly recognise single plastics – water bottles, drinking straws, disposable cutlery, takeaway food containers and so on but it is the composite plastics that are less obvious.  These include takeaway coffee cups, reuseable ‘green’ shopping bags, ‘foil’ chip packets and packaging where plastic may be sandwiched between 2 layers of paper or cardboard.

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The purpose of this blog post is to encourage people really try to make a difference where plastic products are concerned.

Here are a few goals.

  1.  Minimise your use of single use plastic items – look for re-useable, non-plastic alternatives.
  2. Dispose of any plastic waste carefully to ensure it stays out of waterways and oceans.
  3. Remember that plastic is manufactured from oil and oil is a finite resource.
  4. Use recycling as a last resort – it is not a licence to keep using as much plastic (and everything else) as we want and assuaging our guilt by simply tossing it in the recycle bin.  At best, plastic is downcycled not recycled.  It only has one secondary life then it becomes landfill.
  5. Be a conscious and responsible consumer.

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It is not yet July but there is no time like the present to begin to phase out the single-use plastics from your life and consider what else you can change.

 

 

Acknowledging Excellence

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This post is a complete departure from anything I have written in almost six years of writing this blog and is unlikely to compare to any future posts.

While much of the mainstream media is devoted to the antics of celebrities and high-profile sportspeople there are many others all over the world who are quietly working to make the world a better place.  It is impossible to begin to describe the number of ways that people are making a difference to the lives of others.

The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards are made in several categories.  The 2016 award in Development Cooperation was jointly awarded to Pedro Alonso and Peter Myler, an Australian scientist who is Director and Principal Investigator at the Seattle Structural Genomics Center for Infectious Disease.

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Here is the article and you can read more about their work here.

This short video features Peter Myler speaking about his work and what has been achieved through years of persistence and hard work.

If this post goes even a small way towards raising awareness of the work of people like Pedro and Peter, I will be most grateful.  The dedication and determination of scientists and researchers helps to make our world a better and safer place to live and governments all over the world need to be reminded of that.

 

Glass is Good

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I have tried, as much as possible, to reduce our use of single-use plastic.  I know that there is always more that I can do so it is a work in progress, or as some would like to say, a journey.

As with any journey, it is also easier if you are connected with like-minded travellers so I am a member of a couple of different Facebook groups whose members have similar goals.  Some people are keen to remove all plastic, however, I am not about to throw away all of the plastic containers I have (to landfill) so that I can replace them with glass.  On the other hand, I am happy to look for glass when I need some more.

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After much research, I recently purchased 2 dozen Ball preserving jars.  You can read all about them in this post.  I have used some when I made jam recently but am also looking at other ways of using them.

I am aware that some people regularly freeze food in glass but that is not something that I have really done much so I decided that some research was in order as I know several people have had problems with glass jars breaking in the freezer.  This is not a saving of resources or money so I want to avoid that happening.  It turns out that for a glass jar to be suitable for freezer use it must have straight sides – that is no shoulder where it slopes in to the neck of the jar.  The preserving jars which I chose meet this criteria and are also deemed as suitable for freezer use on the panel on the box.

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Naturally, you also need to use commonsense and not put hot jars into the freezer and leave suitable headspace for the food to expand when frozen.  I also choose to chill them first in the refrigerator before transferring to the freezer as well as keeping the lids loose until they were completely frozen.  This strategy seems to have been successful.

Here are some jars of frozen mango puree and refried beans which I was about to transfer to the small freezer downstairs.  I tend to keep this freezer for storage and items which I use on a day-to-day basis in the freezer section of the refrigerator in the kitchen.

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The other purpose for which glass can be used is when taking your own containers to be filled at the shop.  This afternoon I took one of the smaller jars to the deli counter at the supermarket and bought olives.  There was no problem with the staff weighing the container prior to filling to to assess the tare weight and the price sticker was attached to the bottom of the jar.

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Plastic containers certainly have their place and I will continue to use them rather than discard simply for the sake of discarding them, however, it is an interesting exercise to test the boundaries as to how and where glass jars can be used.

 

Not Tree-Hugging Nonsense

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For too long investment in renewable energy, electric cars, sustainable agriculture and a swag of other activities has been seen as the preserve of alternative individuals in our society.  These people are often derogatorily referred to as tree-hugging greenies by those who do not share their values or see the urgency in transitioning our communities to more sustainable practices.

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The Australian government continues to refuse to accept that exponential economic growth at the expense of environmental protection is not the key to our future.

However, I believe the tide is turning.  I have read several articles in the past few days in which the impact of climate change is of concern.  Doctors are identifying health issues, global banks are withdrawing funding for coal mines and an Australian private health fund has announced that it is divesting itself from fossil fuels on the grounds that it cannot reconcile supporting an industry which harms the health and well-being of its members.

This one from APRA (Australian Prudential Regulation Authority) is close to home and should be a stark warning to the government that they simply cannot continue on their current trajectory with regard to action on climate change and support of power generation from non-renewable sources such as coal..

As the support for the coal industry wanes and associated funding options begin to evaporate, the government is determined to push on with its agenda of coal at any cost.   The latest idea is to use the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to fund the establishment of more coal-fired power stations using ‘clean coal’ technology.  This is an absolute disgrace and should be stopped.

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And the Cleaning

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When I cook I invariably make a mess.  In fact, we have a standing joke that I cook and GMan cleans up.  I must admit he is very good at doing the dishes and I think he spent the majority this weekend washing dishes.

I finished off yesterday’s efforts this morning by portioning up the refried beans for the freezer as well as cutting and pureeing lots of mangoes to go in the freezer.  Mango preparation is a messy, sticky business.

In between all of this GMan is experimenting with making sourdough bread and he cooked the first two loaves this evening.  I think that is a work in progress which will not be discussed any further until we have some more successful attempts.

After we had dinner it was time to tackle the last of the dishes and eliminate any mango residue from the benches and splashbacks.

The kitchen is now sparkling and my final step was to mop the floor.  Everything is ready to go for a new week.

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Lots of clean and clear surfaces.

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I remember reading about minimalism that clear surfaces simply afford possibilities.  I love the truth of this statement.  From an uncluttered sofa which invites you to sit and relax to a clear kitchen which is just brimming with the opportunity to prepare meals this logic can be applied to virtually every surface in your home.  It can be a powerful tool in creating a mindset that embraces a simple, uncluttered home and life.